Great Customer Service From IBM (Lenovo)?

Dubner over at Freakonomics was distraught at the idea of sending his beloved laptop away to IBM for warranty repair, but since neither Geek Squad nor any of the IBM recommended vendors were up to the task, he reluctantly agreed.

On Wednesday morning, IBM sent me a sturdy shipping box with a return DHL label. On Wednesday early evening, I packed up my baby and sent her to a company called Solectron in Memphis. I left town on Thursday (to Madison, Wisc. — my first visit; great town), and got home by late Friday morning. There she was waiting for me, my smart little machine, all fixed up by someone halfway across the country, at a cost to me of $0.00, the entire transaction taking about 36 hours.

I wish IBM made more things so I could buy them and know that if something went wrong, the repair process would always be this good.

This is the best customer service I’ve ever encountered in my life.

Is this the usual story with IBM? —MEGHANN MARCO

Should IBM Run the DMV, CIA, and TSA?
[Freakonomics]

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  1. a2bondfn says:

    I have an old IBM T42, almost three years old now (and approaching the end of the warranty period). Its hard drive basically died a few months ago and I rang up IBM. Painless phone service..the box arrived and I sent it out, and it got turned around right quick! If only warranty service was this good everywhere!

    They are absolutely legit. Their machines are definitely more expensive than Dell’s, but that money is in the quality of machines and service…

  2. consumed says:

    This is why I recently purchased a ThinkPad instead of a Dell, Mac, HP, or other brand. I know from multiple experiences calling IBM, their staff is based in Atlanta and very friendly and quick about handling RMA requests and getting a box or replacement part out ASAP. IBM/Lenovo really is a business brand so they don’t mess around.

  3. jd342 says:

    I’ve had to deal with IBM’s staff twice, both times requiring me to send my laptop. The only negative I can think of is a tech on the phone that I think fell asleep for a few seconds. I know that’s pretty bad, and you can bet I wish I recorded the call so you guys could post it, but I’d gladly deal with a sleepy tech every now and then for the quality of their service. The repairs they performed never took more than a day, and both times my computer came back much cleaner and running flawlessly. Since they use overnight shipping through DHL, I could request a box Tuesday afternoon, send the laptop in Wednesday afternoon, and get the laptop back Friday morning.

  4. my smart little machine, all fixed up by someone halfway across the country, at a cost to me of $0.00, the entire transaction taking about 36 hours.

    We routinely did exactly the same thing at Apple.

    In 1995.

  5. mzito says:

    We’ve seen mixed experiences with IBM (non-Lenovo). On the one hand, one of our employees who purchased the IBM onsite options had terrible issues getting the NY folks to fix his laptop, claiming that a tiny hairline fracture in the case was enough excuse to not have to replace the system board, even though the crack had been there since the last maintenance they did on the laptop. On the flip side, on their blade servers, 3-years of warranty onsite repair is included, and they’ve faithfully showed up the next day to fix problems whenever we called.

  6. shdwsclan says:

    Same here, I always got the really long warranty, but I actually never had a problem with their machines….and neither has my dad since he is the recipient of my old machines….and neither have my cousins in europe since their the recipients of my dads old machines which were formerly mine….

    Im currently on a Z61m with all bells/wistle, which include the webcam and the titanium plate on the screen…etc….

    It runs vista funny, but thats the same with the interaction with any vista computers….thats why i have to downgrade to xp….it runs ubuntu 6 and 7 really well…..even support for the thinklight to flash on incoming instant message and it even has dock drivers….and not to mention a special acpi written for ibm.

    It runs mac os pretty well too, since everything is broadcom and/or ati.
    The only thing is the wifi which requires some hacking since apple has the same sort of system as ibm in only letting specific pci card IDS through…..well, you just have to add the atheros id to the kext……but yeah…..ps2 mice take some hacking too, but have recently been included with the image, so both trackpoint and synaptics touchpad work… Dock is not recognized, and neither are a few other things….but you can still put mac users to shame with what you have working….All other drivers require porting from bsd, which isnt all too difficult but time consuming.

    When ordering….for full compatability, choose the IBM WIFI option, not the intel one….The IBM Wifi card carries an atheros chipset which is known as one of the best available in a wifi card….next best thing is cisco…

  7. elladisenchanted says:

    this is about par for the course.
    my work laptop died on a friday morning, i was shipping it from a local drop-off center saturday afternoon, and at 8:30 on Tuesday it was back in my happy hands.

    i thought this fascinating, i asked if it was our contract, and MIS shrugged and said they weren’t really shocked, this was typical, and no, we had no special contract with them.

    the tale of woe regarding what happened when my dell desktop died…oh, that’s a tale of epic woe. IBM? no woe at all.

  8. ebraser says:

    I’m very relived that Lenovo kept the good IBM service I’ve had a pleasure to experience.

    I’m an IT and can fix 99% of the problems with my computers, because of this I’ve never got extended warranty for any of computers I’ve bought. One day I decided to buy very small computer for commute, the one I chose was IBM x40 and the best deal I could find was on eBay for refurbished machine that included 3 years warranty.

    Back then I didn’t even think about warranty and was just looking at the awesome price, but about 2 years later while working on a little project I fried all USB ports when a surge occurred. Being IT I knew it was serious and motherboard would have to be replaced.

    With a bad feeling I called IBM.

    Since I didn’t keep any warranty paperwork I thought that they would refuse service and that I’ve just lost my PC. Since it was already late (about 8PM) on Friday I filled out support request on their website and to my surprise someone called me half an hours later. After couple of quick questions they issued me RMA and said the box was in the mail.

    Early Monday morning I’ve opened my door to find DHL box sitting there waiting for my computer.
    Tuesday morning they already had it and contacted me that they’ve ordered a new motherboard for me from China.
    Thursday I was contacted again that the computer was fixed and is on it’s way back.
    Friday I received a perfectly working computer.

    Now all of my laptops are IBM, all with extended service. Thank you IBM

  9. CarolineInTheCity says:

    I usually don’t comment (in fact, never at all), but I just had my laptop fixed by IBM.
    They needed to replace the systemsboard, and while the part was back ordered, they had fixed it within 4 days of me calling them.
    The guy called today, came over and fixed it, and right now I am typing on it.

    The guy even told me that my warranty covered a lot more than I though. A key is a bit sticky on my keyboard, and he said that if I called and told IBM, they could replace it for me.

    As a college student who uses her laptop for everything, the fact that they were able to do this so quickly was essential (especially during finals week!).

  10. MagicJewball says:

    @CaliforniaCajun

    I’ve had this sort of experience with IBM since 1995 and before as well. It’s not new for them. I’m a Mac user as well and I think both they and IBM set the standard in customer service.

  11. Nottma says:

    I sent in a story a year ago about how I sent my IBM laptop in to get worked on without its battery. Received my IBM laptop with a battery attached. Service took about 3 days and the technicians on the phone spoke perfect English.

  12. Hawkeye1659 says:

    Same experience for me with both an older T40 and my current T43. Another nice thing about IBM laptops is they are surprisingly easy to replace parts yourself, like hard drives. I also love their modular bay system. My T43 now has the extended life battery and I took out the DVD drive and put in a second battery. This combination gives me about 7-8 hours of battery life which is incredible. I couldn’t recommend IBM laptops enough. They might not look like the sexiest things in the world but are well built, durable machines.

  13. Warder12 says:

    This is the normal for IBM/Lenovo. I’ve had a T42 for several years now and have never had troubles with IBM when I send it in. Neither have any of my friends who bought Thinkpags. Last year the university I work at switched from selling Dells to IBMs (to students) and we cut our parts cache in half. ThinkPads not only are durable but if they do have troubles they get fixed quickly.

  14. lilyb says:

    The hard drive of my IBM laptop died less than a year after I bought it. The drive died on Thursday, I called customer service on Friday, on Tuesday, I had a brand new drive, half again as much RAM, and they installed service pack 2 for me. They paid for postage and they followed up two weeks later to check to see that all was well.

    I was not thrilled to have the problem – after all I have a Sony Vaio from 2000 that has never had a single problem – however, IBM’s response certainly made me happy.

  15. NeoteriX says:

    The left “shift” key on my laptop broke. A quick and painless phone call and 2 days later, I had a new laptop keyboard in the mail. Amazing service.

    By the way, random note: nothing makes your laptop feel new again like a new keyboard. I might have to start buying my own every year or so just to feel good inside.

  16. AcidReign says:

    …..We got a thinkpad a few months ago. It’s a great machine! And it boots up on a Backtrack 2 CD (KDE linux variant) with no driver issues. It’s great for testing your home network’s defenses. Ooops, Aircrack broke my WEP key in 7 minutes…

    …..My only theoretical issue would be the hard drive. I’ve seen more failures of toshiba drives (3) than any other. I’ve never seen a Seagate or Maxtor drive die, and only one Western Digital. And the Thinkpad does have that “falling” sensor thing in it to park the heads. That’s one system tray craplet that I didn’t kill!

  17. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    Absolutely not! I was shocked to read this because of the terrible service I received from IBM. I got a Thinkpad for a graduation gift in 1999, and before the extended warranty was up, the entire thing had quit working. I spent countless hours on the phone with them, enough to run up a $300 phone bill (there was no toll-free number). Finally they had me ship in my laptop (on my own dime), which they kept for a month before telling me that it would cost more than $900 to fix because it was now out of warranty (it was still under warranty when they took possession of it, but they kept it so long, the warranty expired). Among the charges were $400 for “reimaging”, which is a fancy name for putting Windows back on it.

    When I said I wouldn’t pay that and wanted my computer back, they hemmed and hawed and didn’t send it to me for another month. I finally had to get my dad (a lawyer) involved to get them to send it back (I had to pay shipping costs) where–viola! It was fixed! I guess they had fixed it without my authorization to diagnose the problem, and didn’t want to send it back to me since I wouldn’t pay the charges. The CD rom drive ended up going out on it after another year and I had to junk it since it was out of warranty.

    I’ll never buy another IBM again, but I can say that the hold music they have on their non-toll-free number is very pleasant–it was at a comfortable volume, didn’t repeat itself, and was not interuppted with commercials.

  18. Sam Glover says:

    It was true for me. I love how when you fill out a service request they ask you if it is okay if they wait until the next day to get back to you, or if you need them to address your problem immediately.

  19. mathew says:

    My laptop needed a new LCD. I had the same 24 hour turnaround experience. I thought maybe it was just me, because I actually work for IBM, but I guess it’s normal.

    I’m not sure what alternate universe Scarfish lives in, but the toll-free number for IBM ThinkPad laptop support in this universe is 800-IBM-SERV, and has been for over 10 years. See http://www.ibm.com/planetwide/us/

    (Opinions mine, not IBM’s.)

  20. sonic0boom says:

    I have the onsite warranty and have had 2 repairs on it since purchasing almost 3 yrs ago. The first time was when the cd/dvd quit working. I logged an online request at around 8pm and received a callback less than 30 minutes later to confirm the problem. I got the replacement drive a couple days later.

    Second issue was my monitor going out. I scheduled a time for the repairs, and a local tech came to my house to change out the monitor. Took him about 20 minutes.

    On another note, their tech support is based out of the U.S. Some things may be outsourced to India — I think the person calling to confirm one of my online service requests was Indian — but i think all the significant tech calls are routed in the US.

  21. Sachin Agarwal says:

    I’ve been counting the days to Santa Rosa so I can ditch my MacBook (sorry guys and gals) and get a brand spanking new business laptop (with all those extra keys in the “right” places). Reading this thread has convinced me to get a ThinkPad.

    Between this and the great Sprint SERO offer, you commenters have done me a world of good. *Smooches*

  22. adambadam says:

    I had a similar experience with IBM. After receiving my x40 almost three years ago now, the hard drive failed completely. This meant that the backup, including the ability to reinstall Windows was completely lost as it is all stored on the hard drive (they don’t send extra CDs with the computer).

    I called up IBM and told them my problem. They agreed to send me a new hard drive though told me it would be on backorder for 8 weeks. I was of course furious though they was not much I could do.

    I went back to my old computer when two days later, out of the blue on my doorstep was a package I was not expecting for another seven weeks — I never called back to see what happened, though was happy nonetheless. Needless to say, I am still using that computer and will probably upgrade to another IBM in a few months.

  23. reeg2 says:

    when implied that Apple doesn’t do the same, i’d like to share my story.

    PMU died, dropped off at Apple Store in Connecticut at 7pm Wednesday night. Shipped to Houston and back and in my hands at lunch on Friday.

    good service from any company deserves recognition.

  24. mike1731 says:

    I work for a technology company that does a lot of business with both Dell and IBM, so our company uses both Dell and Lenovo for Laptops. So I’ve had ample opportunity to see both types of machines in operation, how they’re supported and all. My thoughts – IBM/Lenovo is the class act in the business, no question.

    I’ve used a T42 for two years, and have yet to have anything go wrong. My department fields one T41, four T42′s, and one T60. The T60 has some issues with wifi connectivity, but no system issues. That’s about par for the course for the company as a whole.

    In the meantime, Dell laptops have been a real mixed bag. Although reliability has improved over the past 6 months, it isn’t isn’t that uncommon that about 1/3 of the machines need to be repaired in the first year, with hard drives, keyboards, and power connectors being the most common issues. They’re easier to order than the IBM machines, but that’s where the advantage ends. When they do go down, it can take upwards of a week or more to get them back into service.

  25. davere says:

    IBM does cost a bit more but it’s usually worth it.

    Apple also surprised me. The battery on my Macbook died on Friday and I called them around 8 pm Eastern time. The tech agreed that I’d need a replacement. She took down my address and I forgot about it.

    Imagine my surprise when I get home today (Monday) and there is a brand new battery waiting for me and a pre-paid shipping label for the faulty battery.

    I have no idea how they managed to get the battery out that same evening and still get it delivered right after the weekend. Apparently Jobs does have a reality distorsion field.

  26. quail says:

    I’ve heard good things about IBM laptops. You’ve all convinced me to finally give them a try. That said, I had a Dell Inspiron from 1999 that I retired last year. From what I’ve heard from others is that I got that machine at just the right time. Quality went out the door shortly there after.

    And while I’m on topic, avoid the Compaq/HP line of laptops – even the business models. Sorry machines, and worse customer service. Can’t wait for this one I’m typing on to die to justify the purchase of what I’m planning on being a Thinkpad.

  27. digitalgimpus says:

    I had a real long ordeal with Lenovo… they did make right at the end of the day… perhaps I’ll submit my story at some point.

    Bottom line: if you are persistent, polite, and know what your doing you will get service. Otherwise you’ll just sit.

  28. GeekChicCanuck says:

    This is definitely par for the course with IBM in my experience. I bought an IBM tower for myself 10 years ago and it is still happily running as a kids gaming computer for a friend. The thing is a tank.

    My former place of work was at a small library in Texas. We purchased some laptops to use as part of a rolling laptop lab / meeting room that were stored in some locking desks. My boss made the decision to remove the batteries from the units, carefully drill into the cases and bolt them to the desks for security – even though he assumed that this would probably void our warranties on them.

    Well… one laptop’s screen went bad and we asked for a technician to come out and fix it. I met him at the door the next morning with some trepidation and expected him to ask for money. He simply smiled, fixed the screen, and added a note to our file stating “cases modified – warranty still valid”.

  29. s00p3rm4n says:

    Their efficiency is almost Nazi-like. I wonder why…

    Sieg service!

    (Can’t really hate IBM, much as The Corporation tried to make me. Their products have been nothing but wonderful as long as I’ve used them.)

  30. TSS says:

    I’m another person with nothing but good things to say about IBM/Lenovo. My keyboard had a broken key. they said 3-5 business days. It was sitting outside my doorstep at 10 am the next morning. Before IBM I was a Compaq person, but I’m 100% IBM now. (Plus the red dot track point thing is so much better than a touchpad.)

  31. Trackback says:

    I blogged the other day about the nice service I got on having my IBM laptop repaired. The second commenter on the post, “Kent,” wrote this: Why is the co-author of Freakonomics buying overpriced insurance/ warranty for a computer?!

  32. rvadik says:

    Bad news for me.
    I have a Z60t.
    I had to send it in twice, for the problem with a wireless card. Each time it took 2 weeks to get it back. And at least an hour on the phone with CS (each call). Plus a few calls to get the repair going, after I did not get the laptop a week later.
    Definetly not what I expected.

  33. Mr. Poon says:

    Is this the usual story with IBM?

    In my experience, yes.

  34. mconfoy says:

    They even let employees use the same system, so its sweet. If you have a problem, complain, they listen. If you need a new keyboard for a thinkpad, they even pointed me to the online video and pdf to install myself thus saving 2.5 days of no machine.

  35. stinger4290 says:

    I recently ordered a brand new T60P from Lenovo which was my dream computer I had waited for for years. I initially ordered and patiently waited, and waited, and waited.
    So I called to find out my shipment had been seized by customs. I ordered on May the 11 only to get it on the 28.
    Well I was happy and finally got it only to discover my sound card had issues. After several calls and driver reinstalls (with IBM) they sent me recovery discs to reinstall, they were the wrong discs and they ruined the image of the hard drive preventing a factory reformat. So I called back and they want me to send my brand new computer in to reinstall a refurbished mother board. I said Im not sending in my brand new computer to get tore apart. IBM told me I have to call Lenovo for an approval for an exchange so I did. Lenovo informed me I am past my 21 days(I was on my 23 when I called) for a return so they would request it but it probably wasnt going to happen. I informed them that customer service had pushed back my return time and caused all the issues but they said all they could do was document it. Any way the moral is stick with the companies you trust. Lenovo has lost a new customer.